I am in the travel industry, what role could I have in medical tourism? A few tips
For those of you in the travel industry or those of you that know someone who is, I hope this is helpful in determining the possible role in medical tourism.
The hospitality industry which is made up of hotels and tour operators is a very important part of proving an overall exceptional patient/companion experience. Many hospitals have partnered up with these companies to coordinate transportation and tourism activities. The hospitals are staying focused on providing quality healthcare and are allowing hospitality to handle the rest. For tour operators this could be a new market. Nowadays, it is simple to book your own trip so the demand for travel agents is not as high. With the growth of medical tourism, a travel agent specializing in medical or wellness travel could attract more business.
Hotels can really go above and beyond by offering certain services that recovering patients would require such as:
- Prescription pick-ups
- Wellness packages
- Custom dietary accommodations
- Special activity accommodations
- Medical personnel on staff
Tour operators could extend their services by:
- Arranging transportation to medical appointments
- Planning tourism activities based on the recovering patients capabilities
- Providing activities or restaurants for the companion that may need to spend time alone while the patient recovers
For tour operators there is an opportunity to get even more involved by taking on the role of a medical tourism facilitator. Facilitators can simplify the daunting process of patients trying to find the best healthcare, where to stay, will someone speak their language and how to get around in a different country. Medical tourism facilitators can assist with the following arrangements:
- Provide a list of recommended hospitals and doctors
- Ensure that a translator is provided at the hospital if needed
- Provide approximate cost for the procedure, and the length of time to stay in the destination
- Arrange conference calls between the patient and doctor as well as between the patients primary care physician and the overseas doctor
- Provide detailed information about the destination the patient would travel to
- Transfer patient medical records to the overseas hospital
- Arrangements for passports, visas, flights, lodging and transportation
- Provide a complete itinerary, recommendations and contact numbers
Facilitators can be based anywhere and assist the patient in finding the best facility for their needs. In some cases facilitators are contracted with hospitals so the patient could approach the hospital themselves and they could then set them up with a facilitator to take care of the details. Some countries have developed healthcare clusters which would include hospitals, facilitators, tourism boards and hotels this is where all entities work together to provide the best patient experience and to brand their destination as leaders in medical tourism.
The MTA receives so many phone calls each week from people that want to get into the medical tourism industry and they think they could be a facilitator, but that is the extent of their knowledge. It is difficult to help someone in getting started when they have no idea where their expertise lies within this industry. The MTA has many articles published and even a book called The Medical Tourism Facilitator that will guide you through the process of getting started. If you are serious about starting a business as a facilitator you must know everything it entails, read this book and all the articles you can find to become an expert on what to do. Some people even call in asking how can I work for a company that is already established, in this case the MTA could post their job inquiry on the MTA members only page and if someone is interested they could contact you directly, but you still need to read the book first!
Additionally, if you already have a facilitation company and are looking to get patient referrals or to contract with a hospital, becoming a member of the MTA could be the right step for you. We have several patients calling in looking for the best place to go, we post the inquiries on the members’ only page and this provides the members the opportunity to contact them directly. If you are looking to develop a relationship with a hospital or cluster you can connect with the MTA members on the social network Medical Tourism City, or in some cases the MTA will do personal introductions. And if membership isn’t for you, attending the MTA’s annual conference will put you face to face with these healthcare providers for the chance to establish a relationship, you can even request one on one networking meetings with them.
Below is a list of articles and books to read that will provide examples and hopefully answer some questions you have about medical tourism and the travel industry.
Feel free to contact me with any additional questions, Olivia@MedicalTourismAssociation.com